This year created major challenges for leaders of insurance companies, who faced balancing the rapidly changing needs of their employees and customers. The fast-spreading pandemic resulted in large numbers of insurance professionals working from home while teaching their children, caring for parents, and distancing themselves from others. Tragic events in late spring and summer brought the pain of discrimination back to the forefront and led many insurers to take new actions to address diversity and inclusion.
At Verisk Velocity, I gained valuable insights by moderating a panel discussion about leadership with three insurance executives. As the panelists shared their experiences and insights, five qualities of strong leaders emerged:
- Empathy – There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the challenges that employees and customers face this year. To be effective, leaders must show empathy and gain a deeper understanding of the specific needs of the people they manage and serve.
- Flexibility – With schools and day-care centers closed or only open part-time, many parents simply can’t care for their kids and work regular hours. Leaders have to be flexible with individual circumstances and accommodate schedules to help their employees attain work-life balance.
- Intentionality – The events of this summer brought to light the long road ahead to ending discrimination. To effect significant change, leaders need to be intentional and continue to take action to combat bias. Hosting discussions with employees, updating policies, and developing programs to recruit diverse employees are just a few of the efforts that leaders have begun to embrace.
- Appreciation – If you don’t see people every day, it’s easy to overlook how critical they are. While many employees worked from home, maintenance, operations, and information technology staff were some of the unsung heroes who kept our offices running. Leaders need to recognize their contributions and thank those in their companies and communities on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19.
- Communication – No one has all the answers, especially when there’s a new disease transforming how people live and work. It’s important to communicate regularly with employees and be open about what you don’t know. It’s also critical to listen to your employees and try to address the specific issues that concern them.